KUALA LUMPUR: Marriott International, the United States-based multinational diversified hospitality company that manages and franchises a broad portfolio of hotels and related lodging facilities, sees a huge untapped potential in Malaysia’s tourism industry as more investors are relocating their businesses to the Asean region, including Malaysia.
Its president and managing director for Asia Pacific Craig S. Smith said the Asean region has been benefiting much from the current US-China trade war, of which an increasing number of investors were seen moving out from China and relocated their factories to the region.
"From our perspective, Malaysia has incredible opportunities (to grow), it is very well positioned and has been marked as "truly Asia” because it has so much to offer. On the Asean front, they have China and India on either side.
"Also, the upcoming infrastructure developments such as the rail link, I think the Malaysian government is making some strategic decision on infrastructure which going to help the country in the long run. We see growth family travel such as short break and staycation, ” he told Bernama.
Even if the trade war ended, he said Asean would still be benefited and remained as a strategic location, as currently more factories were moving out of China to the Asean region and these factories could not moving back to China or other places within the short period.
"Companies are looking for places that they think are secured for home travel. One of the things we've been hearing from economist is even if the trade war improved, there will be companies that are insecure and want to be in a stable environment and location, and Malaysia fits the bill.
"Every economist that we've seen is bullish on the future potential of Malaysia (as an investment destination), and now it's up to the government to realise the potential of the country, ” he added.
Thus, he said, Marriott International is shifting its focus on expansion to the Asia Pacific moving forward, targeting to have about 800 hotels across the region by year-end, from about 780 hotels currently.
"A big portion of our expansion plan will be in Asean as one of the fastest-growing areas. Companies are moving because the supply chain has changed, which would benefit the hotel industry in term of business travel.
"And also, the growing trend in leisure travel, which is growing four times as compared to business travel growth. Compared to other countries, Malaysia has the benefit of gaining both (business and leisure travel).
He said the Marriott International also had sealed deals for 100 hotels to be in operations in the Asia Pacific next year, with a possibility of more depending on the current aggressive plan by the group to expand its presence in the region.
Marriott International recently has further expanded its partnership with YTL Hotels, the hospitality arm of YTL Corporation, to bring the AC Hotels by Marriott brand to Malaysia, which will be the first country to have the AC Hotels in the Asia Pacific region.
YTL Corp’s executive director Datuk Mark Yeoh Seok Kah said under the agreement, three existing Vistana Hotels, namely in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Kuantan, will fly the AC Hotels by Marriott brand flag following a strategic conversion.
"We hope that by converting this three Vistana Hotel, that will give us a critical mass of about 1,000 rooms, would allow us to grow this brand into all major towns in the country, including Sabah and Sarawak.
"Marriott International is one of the biggest hotels in the world, in terms of management. With their booking system of 120 million members, which offers Marriott Reward points and redemption among others, I hope by working together with Marriott we can grow this brand as quickly and strategically, ” he said.
AC Hotels by Marriott is inspired by the European style, and it aims to bring a new standard into the hospitality landscape in the country with a promise of "A New Way to Hotel” when they open in December 2019.
Planning to open the AC Hotels in every major town in Malaysia in the future, Yeoh said that the target would be achieved through both existing hotels and building acquisition as well as greenfield hotel development.
"For YTL, we have our land bank and we have partners, like in Penang and Pahang, we partnered with the state governments. We also got requests from some other states to do a joint venture with us (to develop hotels), ” he added.
Meanwhile, Marriot International’s chief operating officer for the Asia Pacific, excluding China, Rajeev Menon said moving forward, the company sees leisure travel trend to grow as much as the business travel, thus creating tremendous opportunities for the group.
"When you look at the Asean region in the next few years, 125 million people will cross borders. People are aspired to travel and they are travelling more and more, not only internationally but also domestically.
"Malaysia is a great place due to its location and diversity, as well as what it has to offer and I think this partnership will help us grow the brand and gives our customers a choice, ” he said.
Commenting on the partnership, Craig said Marriott International chose YTL as both parties already have a good relationship, and Malaysia has been chosen as the first country to be introduced with AC Hotels in the region due to its strategic location and infrastructure.
"They have one of the nicest airports in Asean, roads are at its best, stable electricity, phenomenal Internet connection. When you add all these together, you got everything you need to take advantage of, such as (building) new factories.
"We have approximately 30 hotels in Malaysia currently, and another 30 in the pipeline, ” he added. - Bernama
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